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Max Cavitch

Max Cavitch

Associate Professor of English

Fisher-Bennett Hall 341

Office Hours

spring 2020

Fridays, 1:00-3:00

I joined Penn's faculty in 1999, after receiving my B.A. from Yale and my Ph.D. from Rutgers.  My primary field is American literature, and I teach courses in all of its forms and phases, from the beginnings of English contact and settlement to the present day.  My first book, published in 2007, is American Elegy: The Poetry of Mourning from the Puritans to Whitman.  I have also published numerous articles on early American topics, including print culture; African-American poetry and prosody; aesthetics and free verse in Stephen Crane; Emma Lazarus and the Statue of Liberty; literature and the U.S. Constitution; Emily Dickinson and exceptionality; Whitman and the erotics of poetic address; and early American portraiture.  I'm currently working on another book on early American literature, called "Mad Poet of Philadelphia: Towards a New Literary Psychohistory."

My interest in literary genres carries over to the other book I'm currently writing, which is a comprehensive study of autobiographical writing, called "Passing Resemblances: A Critical Inventory of Autobiography."

I also spend a good deal of time working on cinema, and I've published articles on films by François Ozon, Jean Cocteau, and Michael Lucas.  Forthcoming articles explore the experimental film-work of Patti Smith; gender in Jean-Luc Godard; translation and mourning in a film collaboration by Safaa Fathy and Jacques Derrida; and Gus Van Sant's use of the long take.

My work in these and other fields, including psychoanalytic theory and gender and sexuality studies, extends from teaching and research to a variety of institutional roles at Penn and elsewhere: co-editor of the book series Early American Studies (University of Pennsylvania Press); member of the Advisory and Executive Councils of the McNeil Center for Early American Studies; consortium member of the Project on Bioethics, Sexuality, and Gender Identity in the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy; member of the collaboration committee of the Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania Department of Psychiatry; and one of the founding faculty members of Penn's undergraduate program in Psychoanalytic Studies. I also edit and contribute to the blog "Psyche on Campus."

In these various pursuits, I have been the grateful recipient of fellowships and grants from the Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation, the Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati, the Penn Humanities Forum, Cornell's Society for the Humanities, Penn’s Provost’s Interdisciplinary Arts Fund, the Austen Riggs Center, and the Wesleyan Animal Studies Summer Institute.

More information, including forthcoming speaking engagements and other events, is available at:


Articles and Book Chapters

"Contre-jour" in PMLA (2016)
"Clericus and the Lunatick" in Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America (2013)
"Irregulars" in Contemporary Psychoanalysis (2013)
"Genre" in The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (2012)
"Lament" in The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (2012)
"Slavery and Its Metrics" in The Cambridge Companion to Nineteenth-Century American Poetry (2011)
"American Constitutional Elegy" in The Oxford Handbook of the Elegy (2010)
"Dickinson and the Exception" in A Companion to Emily Dickinson (2008)
"Stephen Crane’s Refrain" in ESQ: A Journal of the American Renaissance (2008)
"Dissociative Reading: Philip Bromberg and Emily Dickinson" in Contemporary Psychoanalysis (2007)
"Introduction" in The Pioneers (2007)
"Emma Lazarus and the Golem of Liberty" in American Literary History (2006)
"Death’s Histories" in Early American Literature (2004)

Doctoral Dissertations Chaired


Don James McLaughlin "Infectious Affect: The Phobic Imagination in American Literature"
Ana Schwartz "Feeling Past Politics: Affection, Settlement, and the Disciplines of Civil Society in Early Anglo America, 1620-1682"


Greta LaFleur "American Insides: Popular Narrative and the Historiography of Sexuality, 1674-1815"
Joshua Ratner ""American Paratexts: Experimentation and Anxiety in the Early United States""


Mark J. Miller "Voicing Abjection: Evangelic Discourse, Suffering and Speech in Early American Literature"

Courses Taught

spring 2020

ENGL 090.401 Queer Autobiography  
ENGL 286.301 American Autobiography  

fall 2019

ENGL 016.303 21st-Century Autobiography  

spring 2019

ENGL 090.401 Queer Autobiography  
ENGL 286.301 American Autobiography  

fall 2018

ENGL 102.401 Intro to Psychoanalysis  
ENGL 286.401 Emily Dickinson at Large  

spring 2017

fall 2016

fall 2015

ENGL 101.003 Poe and Popular Culture  

summer 2015

spring 2015

fall 2014

spring 2014

fall 2013

ENGL 016.303 Emily Dickinson at Large  

spring 2012

ENGL 100.401 Dangerous Writers  

fall 2011

spring 2011

ENGL 781.301 Histories of Forgetting  

fall 2010

spring 2010

fall 2009

ENGL 016.302 Emily Dickinson at Large  

spring 2009

ENGL 598.301 Futures of American Poetry  

fall 2008

ENGL 286.402 Americans in Paris  

summer 2007

spring 2007

ENGL 286.401 Americans in Paris  

spring 2006

ENGL 386.301 Emily Dickinson at Large  

fall 2005

ENGL 299.309 Independent Study  
ENGL 781.301 Histories of Forgetting  

spring 2005

ENGL 089.001 American Fiction and Memory  

fall 2004

spring 2004

ENGL 311.301 The Honors Program  

spring 2003

ENGL 282.301 American Poetry  
ENGL 311.301 The Honors Program  

fall 2002

ENGL 089.001 American Fiction  

spring 2002

fall 2001

ENGL 283.401 American Women Writers  

spring 2001

ENGL 089.001 American Fiction  

fall 2000

spring 2000

ENGL 089.001 American Fiction  

fall 1999